The Bug Report
A Publication of the Greater South Bay PC Users Group
Volume 15 Number 12
Microsoft is Coming in January
Microsoft is Coming January 8
Bring your friends! Everyone is invited to GSBUG on January 8 to hear Microsoft representatives talk about their new products. The meeting will be held in Torranceís new meeting hall adjacent to the Ken Miller Recreation Center. There will be lots of give aways and a chance to ask Microsoft questions.
Impressions of COMDEX and APCUG Activities
By Emmett Ingram, GSBUG, Inc.
I thought the crowd was bigger this year, which is surprising to me. Itís too big really, to walk around. And the hours should be extended. I like the way the types of products are grouped together, all the camera companies and the disk drives in one place. Except the big companie; they have all their products in one area.
I think the accommodations are a problem - the parking is too costly. Itís harder to get around, and I donít think thatís in the interest of Las Vegas or the convention.
Overall, itís an excellent show. Iím impressed with the number of notebook computers and the quality of them. Another thing I want to look into is the flat panel mouse (PowerCat Touchpad by Cirque). Also, now is the time to buy a printer. Epson, HP, Canon,... all the manufacturers are competitive and the output looks real good.
My biggest surprise was the near lack of anything on McIntosh (or Apple). They were not even in the 1 1/2 inch COMDEX guide book.
Many peripheral devices have entered the PC world. I was impressed with video TV options. For example, for $400, a PCI plug-in card turns your computer monitor into a TV set with unique features. This is to be a program event at our May general meeting.
It appears, from COMDEX, that the current computer system has:
233MHz Pentium CPU with PCI bus
Universal Serial Bus enabled
4GB hard drive
a 17 inch monitor with .25 dot pitch
28.8K or 56K modem
and new types of mice or pointing devices.
By Virginia Pfiffner, GSBUG
As usual, we had a great time and we learned a lot at the various COMDEX booths that we visited. We were treated royally by software and hardware vendors through the auspices of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG) to which our club belongs.
The first two days, Saturday and Sunday before COMDEX, we attended a variety of seminars sponsored by APCUG on how to improve the operations of a computer users group. The rest of the week the vendors hosted us for breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner as we listened to information about their products.
Since four of us (Emmett, John, Liz and myself) attended both APCUG and COMDEX events, we were able to meet a variety of people and exchange some good ideas. We also exchanged many e-mail addresses and learned about the web pages of a number of users groups across the country as well as Canada, England and Australia.
At COMDEX, in addition to the usual hardware and software booths, there was a lot of emphasis on multimedia, and handheld computers.
Thanks to the efforts of Emmett and Liz, I was able to ride through the whole week on a Pride Shuttle three-wheeled scooter, which they lifted in and out of Emmettís Suburban sports vehicle. A couple of weeks before COMDEX, I had taken a fall and injured my hip and wouldnít have been able to go without their efforts in shepherding me around, for which I thank them. Our handheld ham radios served us well, so that we could get together to attend meals and meet at the end of the day.
In addition to all the eating and education, the most exciting thing for me was winning a Micron 233 MHz computer system with MMX technology from Iomega. When we stopped at the Iomega booth, they gave us buttons to wear on our shirts during the show. Each day they selected ten "buttoned" people from the convention floor and gave us a certificate to put in the box at the booth. At the end of each day, one of the certificates was selected from the ten. On the first day, I was the lucky one and am very appreciative of my good fortune. Hope Iíll be able to attend COMDEX next year. Itís tiring but fun.
By Liz Orban, GSBUG, Inc.
By Liz Orban, GSBUG, Inc.
APCUGís ability to obtain so much for us was overwhelming. In addition to all the good food and bus transportation to the show, I valued the vendor demonstrations on how to use the great software that we were, more often than not, given free at the end of the presentation.
But, in addition to APCUGís accomplishments, I was intrigued by some of the far-out products at the convention. I kept wanting to ask Derek Williams if the big 42-inch flat panel plasma displays were anything like what he works on. I saw four companies with these displays: Sony, Panasonic, Hitachi and one other. I thought Hitachiís was the best. They were only 4" thick and the picture was really distinct, even with CAD. But the price tagÖI heard things like $25,000, $16,000Ö
Then there was Intergraph Computer Systemsí cockpit with three displays side-by-side and synchronized to show the landscape you were flying over. Guys who fly were standing in line to try it. The displays were high-definition TVs costing $10,000 apiece and the computer was a whole tower costing over $100,000 running Windows NT. The vendor said it had two boxes in the tower each with quad processors. And the memory on the video card was 32MB of Windows RAM plus 64MB of texture RAM - this was only on the video card.
And what about the new removable disk drive by Castlewood. Itís sort of a competitor to the JAZ and Syquestís 1.5G drives, but the recommended retail price is only $199 and 2.1G disks are $29.95. Besides that, the vendor said they think USB is transitional so they went for Firewire, and their disk will also be included in TV boxes by Sony. So you can tape videos on their disks, or online games that you stop in the middle and want to reconvene later.
And then I saw the ALPS dry ink printer which makes a photo quality page for 7 cents apiece on regular paper. Emmett said he had already seen this printer and it has drawbacks. It doesnít have a draft mode and the paper has to go through the process four times, once for red, once for blue, etc. So itís very slow. Still, I like it. It was only $300 something. ALPS is part of a company making Alpine speakers for your car. They also had a dye sublimation printer for $700 which makes photos on that $1/page photo paper. But a lot of booths at COMDEX had a dye sublimation printer.
I could go on forever. But I mustnít leave out the winner of Best of COMDEX award: Play, Inc. They make the Snappy video capture device. But now they have a whole TV studio for $5,000 that replaces million of dollars of equipment. And I should mention that there were several companies exhibiting e-mail with movies in it, and one of the companies is right here in Torrance, Baraka Intracom.
I have fliers on most of this stuff and will be glad to talk about it, endlesslyÖif you are interested.
By John Hanson, GSBUG
By John Hanson, GSBUG
COMDEX seems to have more people attending every year. About 250,000 this year. Hotels seem to raise their rates about ten times during this week. It seems to me that there were a lot of unsold booths, perhaps because of the steep prices.
I was hoping that digital cameras would have something new to offer, but if you want quality, stick to film.
Liz Orban and others have been very happy with their zip drives with 100MB but I have delayed. And now I'm glad, because SyQuest has come out with a 1.2GB drive called SparQ that uses media about the size of a floppy. It's a removable hard disk and costs only $33 plus the drive which is $200 and comes in external and internal. Naturally the internal is much faster as it doesn't have to go thru the parallel port.
Then Liz discovered Castlewood which is even better with a 2G drive for about the same price. I went to their booth and was more impressed when I had a chance to talk to the developers. They call their system "Orb".
For a while I was tempted to get the LS-120 drive, but they were too slow in getting it to market. Emmett did get one in San Diego. I think it is better than the zip drive. But now that Castlewood has come along, that may be the best for safeguarding your data. But without a standard, prices will remain high and you probably should buy two drives for protection.
By the way, the external LS-120 will not format your 1.44MB floppies but will read and write to them. This means you still need to keep your old reliable 1.44MB floppy drive. You can buy the 1.44MB drives at the Pomona swap meet for about $17 a pack, so maybe I should get a half dozen as insurance. 1.44MB floppies hold so much that they are still excellent for backing up most of your work and they are very cheap at about 20 cents each.
The second thing that really impressed me at COMDEX was that dictation software has finally become real. Now you can talk at the normal 150 words per minute rate and the computer will print it out. IBM demonstrated their Via Voice version and I understand the price is quite reasonable. For me, this could be very useful when I am driving, but may require a very powerful notebook computer. Apparently you cannot tape your dictation and then feed it to the computer; you need to train the computer with your voice for a couple of hours. But maybe if you trained it with a tape recording, you could use tapes in the future. This would be a real blessing as I have so many old dictation tapes I would like to have transcribed. On the other hand, that may not work too well as many of the tapes were made on various recorders, all of which have different frequency responses. Before, you had to talk in a staccato fashion, which is not very practical. So this new advance is terrific. Dragon Systems has also been working on a ditation program but I didn't see them at COMDEX. In the past they were very expensive as there was no competition. Please check both out and let me know. So far the human ear outperforms all the computers. Humans can hear in one language and output in another which may take some time for computers.
File Manager Lives!
For those of you running Win95 who miss your old File Manager from Windows 3.1, you can run a new, improved version of File Manager in Win95 by clicking on the Start button, and selecting Run. Now type in the word Winfile and hit the Enter key. File Manager for Win95 will open, giving you a screen similar to the one you learned to love and hate so many years ago. Thanks for this tip go to www.tipworld.com If you're not subscribed to tipworld, you're really missing out!
Myself, I like to have two Window "panes", side by side, so I can view two different directories at the same time...similar to Norton Commander. I found that by going up to the menu bar under "Window" and selecting New Window, you are able to open a second window, which you can resize so that it fits alongside the first one you opened. Now when you want to compare directories (which nowadays are called Folders), or copy from one to the other, you can see two of them side by side!
You may find this is a little cluttered in 640x480, but it gets better if you change to 800x600 or better. And if you're using higher resolutions, you could probably open a third or fourth window for copying to multiple locations, comparing multiple drives, etc. And when you exit WinFile, and come back again later, it remembers where you were and picks up right where you left off! You don't have to open your multiple windows all over again. Plus it's free! (included with Win95, although you may have to retrieve it from the CD-ROM the first time, if the Run command box can't find it). You can check right now to see if you have it installed, just look in your Windows folder (Windows95) and there should be a file there called Winfile.exe. If you see it, go ahead and try it out, and see what you think!
This tip started out as a "fix" for Windows95 programs that take over a file extension. For instance, a paint program might support both .bmp and .pcx file types, and when you install it, it becomes the "default" program when you try to work on one of those files. But maybe you want to use one program for .bmp, and another for .pcx. Now you have to try to figure out how to separate them in Win95. It's much easier to open "WinFile" and use the "File, Associate.." menu to set which file type goes to what program.
Video Accelerator Cards
Thinking of buying a new graphics display card (2D/3D accelerator)? Take a look on the internet at Shayne's Video Accelerator Page www.integritynet. com.au/~sdl/video for reviews on some of the current boards, plus lots of information about accelerator cards, and the chips they are built around, along with the pros and cons about each card.
Editorís Note: John Sullivan is the new SIG leader of the Intermediate Windows 95 Class held on the fourth Friday of the month. His class will cover more detailed aspects of the operating system. Virginia Pfiffner will continue to lead the Beginning Windows 95 Class on the third Thursday of the month.
Saving Time in
By William A. Parradee
Win95 seems sluggish sometimes and fast at others. It has advantages though. For example, Win95 is multitasking, which means it can do two or more things at the same time.
Learning more about the Find and Run commands from the Start menu is a good place to begin. I will also mention ways to help get more done. The simplified directions that follow assume you know how to use the mouse and/or the keyboard to make choices. Details may be given if I think the way to do it is not obvious.
From the Start menu, select the Find command to quickly locate files and folders. The search will cover the entire drive unless you change the options. Use Find's tabs and dialog box to refine your search specifications. Select Browse to go to a desired drive, folder, or file location. Use the right arrow key to open a highlighted folder or drive that has a plus sign -- or click on the plus sign.
If you make the same search often save the criteria used. Use the File menu and chose Save Search. This makes an icon on the Desktop. Select it to re-use the same search specifications.
Here is an example of a selective search I have used. I use Internet Explorer to view sites or files on the internet. I read them offline to save time: I use *.* to locate all files, use Find's Browse menu, and go to the Temporary Internet Files folder. It has over 3,500 files so I use the Date Modified tab and choose: "During the previous 1 day(s)". Now it finds only 94 files. I can go through them and view almost any file.
The Run command on the Start menu will start any program or open any folder on your computer or on a network computer. The commands you run are saved. The Run dialog box shows only the last command used. Use the Down Arrow to scroll through and choose from commands previously used. I get the impression that many, perhaps all, DOS commands are ignored here.
With the Documents command on the Start menu, you can quickly open any of the last 15 document you've recently worked on. You'll save a lot of typing time, especially if you used long file names.
Open With command
Win95 sometimes doesn't know which program to use for opening a file you select. So it starts the Open With dialog box. Either type in a program name or Tab to the box full of names and choose one. Unless you're certain you've chosen the right program to use, remove any checkmark next to "Always use this program to open this file." Otherwise, a wrong choice will become difficult to correct. Youíll have to use Shift plus right-click, and choose Open With to change the fileís associated program.
AutoPlay for CDs
CDs start playing as soon as you close the drive. After you've finished using the CD, to start it again, choose its drive from Windows Explorer. Another way is to open and close the drive. It may take several seconds if you are running something else at the time.
Quick View lets you view documents without starting the program that created them. It works for popular Windows-based programs. Choose (highlight) the document you want to view in Windows Explorer or My Computer. Use the File menu and choose Quick view. If File menu doesn't show Quick View, the program may not allow its use or Quick View may not be installed from the Win95 CD-ROM. Get it if needed. (Editorís note: Quick View is generally accessible by selecting a file and clicking the right mouse button.)
To add a new printer use the Start menu, choose Settings, Printers, Add Printer. Go on from there.
Send your document to the printer. It prints in the background so you can almost immediately start on something else.
You can use several programs at the same time due to multitasking in Win95. An hourglass cursor is displayed when something will take quite a while. If the program you are using displays an hourglass cursor, switch to another one. A mouse click will do it. So will pressing Alt-Tab. If more than two programs are in use, hold down Alt and press Tab repeatedly until the program you want is indicated.
I wrote this article on a DOS-based word processor. I often opened Windows-based programs to verify things while still in the word processor. Exiting those programs returned me to the writing screen but nothing worked. I found that Alt-Tab would restore it to activity.
Good luck with Win95. I hope one or more of these sugghestions help you.
Installing Win95 SIG
We had our second SIG on installing Win95 on Nov 19th. Attendance was small compared to the first SIG. I had already loaded the program on the club computer and asked if anyone else was ready to put it on their machine. Derek Kawamaura brought in his machine. It was a 486-66 that had some modified version of Win 3.1 on it. The hardware was OK but the software had problems. Derek wanted to dump all the old stuff into the bit bucket and start fresh with Win95.
We had a little trouble getting started because he forgot his mouse, keyboard and power cord. After this was resolved, I wanted to check his crash disk, which he forgot, to make sure we could get the system up and running. We made a boot disk (also known as a crash disk or a startup disk) and after checking to make sure it would boot the system and recognize the CD-ROM drive, we were ready.
The computer had a 510MB hard drive that was all one partition. We left this alone so we did not run Fdisk. We just formatted the C:\ drive and then loaded Win95 from te CD-ROM. All went well. Win95 came up without a hitch. I then loaded the games from the CD-ROM just to show how to add other programs.
The last thing we did was to transfer ERU from the CD-ROM to a dir on the root of C:\. ERU is the Microsoft Win95 Emergency Recovery Utility. It is designed to provide a backup of your system configuration in case a problem occurs. If you are not using this utility, check into it. You can find four files on the Win95 CD-ROM in Other\Misc \ERU. Copy the four files to your hard disk and read the Read.me file.
If there is interest in loading Win95 on your machine, let me know and we will set something up for January. Also, if there is interest we can do other things with the system or the machine. One thing is using Partition Magic to break up the hard drive on the club machine into several smaller drives. Let me know if you are interested.
The New Chip on the Block
A CHEAP, SMALL, FAST PROCESSOR
Move over Cyrix! AMD? Out of the way! Hey, Intel? Look out! I just fired up a system with a new processor and from my unscientific tests, Iíll tell you what: theyíd better start worrying.
The processor is the WinChip C6, a 200 MHz chip from Centaur Technology, a new company thatís a subsidiary of Integrated Device Technology.
With the way Intelís scrambling-lowering prices and releasing fast chips earlier than expected - new processors are big news. In fact, the major magazines are looking at the WinChip C6, including PC World. (The evaluation is in Decemberís Top of the News, at www.pcworld.com. You might also look at Novemberís ["K6-266 Challenges PII-266 on Price/Performance"] on page 70 or online.)
Hereís how the chip stacks up: The WinChip C6 is currently available at 180MHz / 60MHz bus and 200 MHz / 66 MHz bus versions. It uses an original RISC implementation -- x86 micro-architecture -- with 5,400,000 transistors and 88 mm2.
The chip is manufactured with four layers of metal interconnect and the die is bonded into a standard 296-pin grid array ceramic package. Itís Socket 7 compliant and compatible with the Pentium pinout. It also has a selectable operating voltage of either 3.3v or 3.52v.
That means you can pop the WinChip C6 into older single voltage (rail) Pentium motherboards (which usually canít use CPUs with a 2.8 / 3.3 dual voltage requirement) and most dual rail models. So if you have a single-voltage motherboard with an older single-voltage Pentium chip, you can upgrade it with this WinChip C6. Before attempting a refit with any of the upgrade chips, you should confirm that your PC is a candidate for a WinChip. (Check compatibility lists on their web site.)
One possible stumbling block is that for the WinChip to be recognized by your system, you must have the right BIOS: The current versions of Award 4.5x, AMI, Phoenix, or System Soft BIOS will all work.
Had enough technical specs? Donít kid me, of course you want more. You can spend hours, no, days, reading about the chipís architecture at Centaurís web site: http://www.winchip.com
The Test System
I tested the chip on a preconfigured system. The motherboard, a Space-walker Holco Shuttle 565 uses an Intel 430 TX chip set, Award 4.53 BIOS, and 512K L1 cache memory. It came with 32MB of 60ns EDO DRAM, a Diamond Stealth 3D 2000 video card with 2MB EDO DRAM, and a Western Digital 2.1GB drive.
Howíd it Work?
Iíll admit that at first I was reluctant to try a non-Intel processor. Last year I looked at the NexGen - my first experience with a clone chip - and discovered compatibility problems. I had to run a small NexGen utility before loading some applications needing a math coprocessor. So I loaded over 20 programs onto the WinChip system, including utilities, games, shareware and freeware, and business application suites. And I experienced absolutely no compatibility problems with the WinChip C6.
Overall, I was also impressed with the WinChipís performance. Every busi-ness application I used performed well. And thatís the first qualifier: The Win Chip C6 is designed primarily for use with business software. Itís not a gamers system. The performance of WinWord, WordPerfect, Excel, Quick Books, PowerPoint, Lotusís Approach, Eudora Pro, and similar programs, all exceeded my expectations.
But I didnít see much of a performance gain for Ventura Publisher, my desktop publishing program, or any of the MMX-driven games I tried. Iím not saying I couldnít run Duke Nuke Ďem or Quake (God forbid). Itís just that it didnít work any faster or better than on my Intel 166 MHz system.
I also installed some of the more outrageous peripherals I had in office into the WinChip system. For example, I added a writeable CD-ROM drive, and a DirectDuo Satellite Internet card. Both worked fine.
Oh, Yeah...The Price
Centaur is trying to sell these chips to third-tier companies, local value added resellers (VARS) and integrators, Companies many of us already buy clones from - Jet Research Labs, PC System Design, and MicroTrends. Theyíre also approaching the user group community, people willing to crack the case, tinker with their systems, and get bytes under their fingernails.
Right now, an AMD K-6 chip, without a systemboard, runs about $175 and an Intel 200 MHz is about $230. My guess is the WinChip C6 will run around $135 to begin with, perhaps dropping in price to $110 after a few months.
If youíre comfortable upgrading your existing system by yourself, youíll probably be able to pick up a WinChip at the swap meet. However, donít count on tech support when you buy at the swaps. For that, youíll need to buy the WinChip at a large upgrade company, say, Evergreen Technologies (541/757-0934; www.evertech.com).
Boot Up and
Kick the Tires
Our friend Pam is buying her first new car this month. John and I realized that she needed adult supervision when she blurted out to the first salesman that approached her, "I have $15,000 to spend and I want a red one with a moon roof." The sharks started circling. We hustled her out of the lot, sat her down at our dining room table and began the reeducation process. The Internet helped.
With CarPoint, Microsoft Network has once again set the standard for stellar information presented in a elegant, logical and fun interface.
Start with the surround videos, which let you crawl around the interiors of 50 popular new cars and trucks including the slick new Jaguar XK8 that I lust after. You will have to grab a video plugin, but at 38K it is a fast download and a no-brainer to install. Pam is concerned about getting enough back seat leg room to accommodate her rapidly-growing teenage son. She scoped out the available cars that fit her budget - the Mazda Protege', Toyota Camry and Chevy Lumina - and got a realistic preview of the layout and space. The photography is stunning; my Jaguar was filmed in front of the Tower of London. Video files are small - only about 43K - and the download time was magically fast. With my 33.6bps modem, I was able to start poking around in 10 seconds.
Where the rubber meets the road, videos are really just eye candy: cute, but not exactly Consumer Reports. CarPoint also provides the nuts and bolts to help you select the right car at the right price. You can browse hundreds of new car descriptions by selecting the car type, such as passenger cars or sport utilities, or select cars by manufacturer - all 46 that deal in the United States are listed.
But the coolest way to hone in on the car you want is through the car finder. Using an interactive form we entered Pam's wishlist. Starting with vehicle type and price, we got a list of 33 cars. As we fiddled with additional criteria, there were surprises. In Pam's price range, the model with the most horsepower turned out to be the Honda Civic, which I had falsely assumed was propelled by two hamsters and a rubberband. We gave it a second look. When we quizzed CarPoint about gas mileage, there was only one of the group that got less than 30 MPG: the Hyundai Sonata. Into the dumpster.
When we had our short list, we started looking at the cars. CarPoint provides a thorough description, pricing, conven-ience and safety features, specifications, repair and maintenance data, a list of competitors, and a photo gallery. One of Pam's requirements is a manual transmission, a feature that is getting to be as rare as free downtown parking. A few cars that she had been admiring from afar only came equipped as automatics and were tossed in the reject pile.
This is just skirting the edges of Microsoft's new car lot. Editors' Best Buys lists recommendations from Car & Driver, Motor Trend, Consumer Digest. Consumer Reports. Familv Circle and Money magazines. Additionally, auto writer Dan Jedlicka has posted more than 50 pull-no-punches reviews of new cars, including previews of quite a few of the 98s.
A Java-based affordability calculator lets you play around with different financing scenarios. Pam has been struggling to pin down the size of her down payment, and the interactive calculator helped her visualize the effect on her monthly payments. Tickling the interest rate slider convinced her to shop around for a rate better than the one being offered at her credit union: each percentage point added $7 to her monthly payment, or $336 per point over the life of a $15,000, 48-month loan.
The dealer finder is tied into an online version of Microsoft's Automap software. First, select a make, then enter your zip code. A list of dealers will pop up on the screen, with printable maps to the lots. You can specify a distance you are willing to travel from home, from five to 100 miles.
If this isn't enough, you can buy your car through Microsoft. Fill out a form and within 48 hours one of the 1,900 subscribing dealers should contact you by phone, quoting you a price on the vehicle requested. The dealer will then commit to sell or lease at the price quoted - no tricks or bait and switch. You only have to step into the showroom to sign the papers. This service is offered through a partnership with Auto-By-Tel.
Auto-By-Tel is a story in itself. The media, from Fortune Magazine to the Wall Street Journal, have given the service rave reviews, and testimonials report saving in the thousands of dollars. Since it was launched in 1995 more than 625,000 consumers have submitted purchase requests through Auto-By-Tel. They have recently added online auto financing, and their currently offered rates of 8.25% -9.25% appear to be competitive with the 9.5% reported as the average in Texas by the Bank Rate Monitor. Low-cost insurance is available through AIG. Ultimately, you work with a local dealer so the uncertainty of buying such a big-ticket item online is mitigated. The service is free, and there is no obligation to accept an offer. If your dream scenario for buying a new car is to never step into a showroom, this is for you.
GTE Superpages auto consumer guide is similar to CarPoint. Its interactive car finder offers more options (we could specify that Pam wanted air conditioning and a moon roof, for example) but the interface was clunkier than CarPoint's and the results slower. Their reports on individual models were not as detailed as CarPoint's.
The real strength of the GTE site is in the consumer information. If you haven't entered a new car showroom in a few years your automotive vocabulary may be out of date. An illustrated glossary defines new technology such as head-up display, a vacuum-fluorescent display that projects information from the dashboard onto the windshield so it can be consulted without looking away from the road. (I want one!) There are also tips on insurance, safety, negotiating and financing. Did you realize that the average car loan is now for 54 months? That one quarter of all buyers pay the asking price for their new car? Even if you're a seasoned and ruthless negotiator, this site will give you insight into some of the hottest trends in new car sales and financing trends, and the ammunition you need to strike a bargain.
GTE also has an excellent section on used cars, a market that CarPoint ignores. I checked up on my 1994 Chrysler LeBaron convertible, the car featured on the cover of the May PC Alamode. I was pleased to note that it has held its value. It retails today for $11,100-12,800, only about $3,500 less than we paid for it new. John, of course, maintains that this is because he negotiated a killer deal from Ancira. I wish we had access to this data when I totaled the Dodge Shadow and we had to dicker with the insurance company! The used car section has several photos for each model, important when you are buying a car via the classified ads. It also has descriptions that note year-by-year the difference among models, another plus when you are buying from the newspaper.
GTE ties into a classified ad section, which lists more than 150,000 used cars. If you opt to register for the free Cool Notify service, you will get an e-mail as soon as the make and model you are shopping for hits the web page. No missing out on the deal of a lifetime!
GTE also links Kelley's Blue Book. Here, after we entered our zip code and all of the options loaded into the LeBaron, we were able to get the trade in value: $9,140. Not bad. We also checked the value of Pam's Suzuki Samurai. She's decided to hold onto it.
Kelley's also offers Carfax, an independent service that can give you a detailed report of any car's history for $12.50. Carfax will check its database containing millions of vehicles for "hidden problems", such as odometer rollbacks, flood damage and junk or salvage titles. The report is sent to you by e-mail.
Although CarPoint and GTE appear to offer the most comprehensive information, there are several other sites that can help you make new car buying decisions. Car and Driver was a disappointment. Although the site looks fresh, they only present their '96 buying guide online. Maybe they are hesitant to cut into their current book sales, but information on last year's models is next to useless, no matter how pretty. Edmund's is not as fancy but more useful. No whiz-bang features here, but plenty of reviews on new and used cars and some tips on negotiating and safety.
If you guys can get over the macho attitude that men are born knowing everything about cars, A Woman Motorist has some slick features. Their inventory of car reviews is skimpy, but the advice is fabulous. Make sure to test drive their new car buying handbook. It became our bible in the "Pamís new car" campaign. Another source we used is Auto Revista, the online version of a Dallas magazine, published in both English and Spanish. The reviews here are excellent.
I'm a big fan of Tom and Ray Magliozzi, also known as Click and Clack the Car Talk Brothers. John and I listen to them on Texas Public Radio (89.10 FM) on Saturday at 9 AM or Sunday at 1, and read their column in
the San Antonio Express-News. Their web site has the same wacky humor as their other productions, leavened with a big dose of common sense and practical advice. The Site is searchable by key word. It carries all of their columns from the past four years, National Highway Traffic Safety Reports (recalls, complaints and crash tests) and Highway Loss Data Institute reports. AllData technical bulletins, used to report common automotive glitches to mechanics, are available too, for 1996 models and older. If you're also a fan be sure to read their autobiographies. Hilarious! I didn't realize that Tom has a Ph.D., or that Ray served a year as a VISTA volunteer here in Texas.
After you picked out a few makes and models, be sure to visit the car manufacturers' sites. They all have them; a good list is in Yahoo. Most of them aren't much more than souped-up brochures, but you might stumble across that one fact that clinches the deal.
Thirteen San Antonio Auto dealers now have Internet Web pages. Some, such as Ancira, Fiesta Auto Center and North Park Lincoln Mercury, had pages designed locally with ho-hum results. Three Toyota Dealers - Alamo, Cavender and Universal - are affiliated with DealerNet, so have professional-looking pages, but not much local information. Gunn Automotive Group, aligned with AutoWeb falls into the same category. Northside Ford, Southway Ford and North Park imports seem to be more on target, offering special deals for Internet buyers and advertising up-to-the minute sales, such as North Park's hail damage specials on their Kias.
The last statistic I read claimed that two percent of all new cars are now being bought on line, and that this no haggle, no fuss method of purchasing is revolutionizing the car sales industry. I can believe it. If any Alamo PC member has actually bought a car online, I'd love to hear from you. The Jeep and the LeBaron are a long way from the junk heap but they can't last forever!
The web is full of information. Iím passing on to you some of the best sources Iíve seen.
Building a Computer:
New Tax Law:
Stock Market Information:
Software Tuneup Freeware:
Free Picture Editing Software:
1. Buying a Computer?
Pentium 166's seem like the most cost efficient buy at the moment. You can get a whole system for well under $1,000 with a big hard drive, lots of RAM and all the other goodies like CD-ROM, etc. Don't buy the name brands like Compaq, HP or Gateway 2000 as they tend to modify things to keep you under their fold and you don't get the most for your money. And, as usual, avoid Packard Bell no matter how luring the temptation even tho some people have not had troubles with their Packard Bell so far. You can even get MMX and you don't have to go Intel. Cyrix and AMD are competing quite well. There is even a new contender we saw at COMDEX and your president Emmett is getting one along with the ideal motherboard and will let you know how it works. Itís a WinChip C6.
My son bought a computer system for my wife at the Pomona Swap Meet. But he violated my cardinal rule which says you should not pick it up at the swap meet. You should give a tiny deposit and pick it up at the store in a few days when you have plenty of time and quiet to try it out before you fork over your money.
The company was called Environ from Glendale and I have seen their interesting flyers for some time. We splurged with a 17" monitor which has turned out to be quite good and very reasonable. But the CPU was nothing but troubles. My son thought it was the CD-ROM but I felt it was the Win95 program causing the problems. We called, but it was like calling outer space. We took it to their so-called Santa Monica store, but they said they only use the name and are really not affiliated, so they can't fix it. We stopped payment on the check for $1,200 and I sent a letter by fax and snail mail telling them what we had done. Still no response. Finally, when he got the returned check from his bank, the manager called. We took just the CPU to him on Saturday. And after three hours we left, as all the kings men and all the kings soldiers could not get Humpty Dumpty to work again. They were changing everything trying to get it to work.
When I had tried to reinstall Win95 at home, it kept saying that the file in the computer was newer than that on the CD-ROM, so they apparently did not give us the latest release on the CD-ROM. So be careful. Learn what the label looks like on a release 2 version. I also insisted they change the power supply, as the fan was extremely noisy, something you canít hear til you get it home. Several days later, they called to say they had it fixed. So we picked it up on Saturday, gave them a new check, and so far everything is OK. It helped to leave the monitor at home as leverage in case they decided just to cancel the order.
It's a Pentium 200 with MMX with about 16MB of RAM, a 2 GB hard drive, sound board and a 4 disk, 6x CD-ROM changer along with the 17" monitor for about $1,200. So I hope you believe me when I say it is better to wait and pick it up at the store where it is nice and quiet and you have time to test it with your own software. Even then, when you get it home you should run Burnin for about three days to see if you have any infant mortality. And be cautious about believing anyone when they say they have several stores. It was a good buy, but what a hassle!
2. Can you believe Bob Hudak?
Of course, he always gives good advice. He is a DOS expert as well as our club librarian and always offers interesting new programs each month for only $3. Buy whatever he suggests, even if you don't have time to try it at the moment. He talked me into Directory Freedom, and today it is one of my favorite utilities. But I still use DR and CO which probably were the precursors.
He also talked me into Print Artist and told me where to get the best deal. You can still get Print Artist 3.0 for only $8 and it's a fabulous program. I haven't done much with it but I gave a copy to my granddaughter and to one of my teachers in Europe. My granddaughter Katie who is 12 and a wiz on computers has been using it for about six months. I was amazed at what she can do with it. She makes all kinds of cute color things for her teachers. That's what it takes, lots of practice, but then you get terrific results. One of the nice things is that, as you move the cursor to a selection, it shows you a preview right away so you can examine many possibilities very quickly. I can't thank Bob enough. He really knows how to find the gems. He also talked me into Labels Unlimited but since I don't spend a lot of time with it, the results are somewhat laborious. Maybe I should give a copy to my grand-daughter and then she can teach me.
3. Do your Icons get messy?
It seems like it happens all the time. Windows has a nasty habit of not protecting the arrangement of the icons once you get them the way you like them. You have to go into options and check or uncheck something and then reboot. What a nuisance! Apparently it has bothered other people too and Neil Rubenking of PC Mag has written a program to solve the problem. It is called WinTidy95 and maintains order even when you change resolutions. You can request a free copy by mail at fax # 508-368-0141 or send a post card to PC Mag, c/o Image Software Services, 67 Buena Vista St.. Devens, Mass. 01432 By the way, Neil is one of the best writers and programmers on PC Mag. Another new writer who is really good is Neil Randall. He can make the really difficult very understandable.
Editor's Note: John Hanson is the inventor of Tooties, a superb self-teaching system used by millions in schools, homes, and by eye doctors around the world to improve vision. He also invented a new form of psychology called QET (Quick Effective Therapy) which transforms poor students into good into good students, almost overnight, usually in 5 to 15 days. He has also had outstanding success in helping brain damaged people, even
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